Christianity And Feminism: Can They Work Together?
Following the furtherance of the feminist movement in a religious nation like Nigeria, there are myriads of rebuttals from both religious and irreligious people that converging Christianity and feminism might be a far reach, as they argue the Bible to be misogynistic and highly sexist.
While it might seem arduous to conflate Christianity and gender equality, I would love to begin with a historical perspective: the Bible did not invent patriarchy, but it only expresses the prevalent state of male dominance in those times. I mean, even though the Bible was written by men on inspiration from God, male dominance was largely sold through that age’s culture, which was highly patriarchal. If the Bible were to be rewritten in our time, there’d be a distinctive difference in traditional gender nuances, as we humans have evolved and women’s inclusion in virtually every part of society is fast gaining a foothold.
A common religious fallacy that fosters male dominance is the idea that the biblical account of creation portrays women as an afterthought of God — created after men, hence, affirming that men are superior. If the sequence in creation bestowed an order of hierarchy, then, wouldn’t it be logical to say that all animals are superior to man because God created them before man?
In fact, digging deeper into the creation story, the dazzling truth is that male and female were created at the same time.
In Genesis 1:26-28 MSG: ‘God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”’
He created them male and female, and He gave both genders the mandate of dominion, multiplication and leadership. So, it’s rightfully expected of a woman to lead, take charge, and be on the frontline. That mandate was handed over to humanity (both male and female). There’s a gap between these verses and the verse that talks about the formation of Adam and Eve, of which there are many stories, such as the account of Lilith. However, the salient point is that the first verse about the creation of human beings is cardinal to the furtherance of women’s inclusion.
Jesus Christ and His Views On Gender
On one occasion, a set of people wanted to stone an adulterous woman and reported her to Jesus. Jesus asked them to cast the stone if they were without sin and they disgracefully left. In introspection of what Christ said, I believe part of what His response implied was: “If any of you here haven’t cheated on your wife, be the first to cast the stone.” The Jewish law made provision for punishing an adulterous woman, but never maintained the same standard for an adulterous man. Male hypocrisy isn’t alien; it’s as old as time and Jesus frowned at it. He disregarded a law that was gender-biased because He understood that both genders should be held to the same standards.
More so, Jesus’ relationship with women was a noble one — they were the greatest financiers of his ministry. The Bible specifically shows His bond with Mary Magdalene, who was a prostitute; though some liberal theologians assessing Christian polemics have an argument that she wasn’t a prostitute, and that was an agenda to discredit her relevance to Christianity. In fact, there are speculations about the Gospel of Mary written by her.
Taking this out of external sources and theological polemics, it is clearly stated in the gospels that Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene — this was symbolic. She was the first to experience the sacrosanct event of His resurrection on which our gospel creed is built. He appeared first to a woman in an age when the testimony of women was not accepted in the courtrooms. Let us exemplify how He exalted womanhood — a woman, otherwise disqualified to take up active roles in the Church, was the first bearer of the gospel of good news. Jesus qualified WOMEN.
Paul summarizes my views on the concept of equality in his words in Galatians 3:28-29 MSG: ‘In Christ’s family, there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us, you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.’
This scripture packs plain wisdom and guidance on how humans — male and female alike — are to be treated; it implies that, before the reign of Christ, there must have been division and superiority based on status, race, gender, among others. However, in Christ, there’s no such: we all are EQUAL in and before Him. Feminism is the advocacy for justice and equality for women and, contrary to religious benevolent sexist ideas, Christ frowns at gender discrimination, and He is certainly pro-women.